COMMENT By Tony Hughes
Arsenal have steadily recovered from their 4-3 defeat to Liverpool on the opening day of the season and Arsene Wenger is likely to stick with the players who have been key to a string of solid results for Saturday’s showdown against Chelsea.
This means that he is likely to ignore the credentials of those who impressed in the 4-0 hammering of Nottingham Forest in the League Cup in midweek.
Granit Xhaka provided further evidence of his calibre with a second goal in successive games while Lucas Perez scored twice to provide lift-off to his Gunners career.
But the duo are set to be on the bench against Wenger’s bogey team Chelsea, just as they were in the 4-1 triumph at Hull last weekend.
Perez’s fellow attackers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud, who has missed the last two matches with a toe injury, are also unlikely to make the starting XI at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi were rested in midweek, which was a strong hint from Wenger that the wide men will start against Chelsea, either side of spearhead Alexis Sanchez.
The Chilean has taken on the central striker role for five of the team’s seven matches this season and his mobility, touch and inventiveness could mean Wenger sticks with him for a clash in which slick passing combinations are likely to be key to Arsenal’s chances of a win.
Sanchez has scored four goals and supplied two assists this season, and is likely to be supplied by playmaker Mesut Ozil, with first-choice central midfield pair Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin behind him.
New signing Shkodran Mustafi is likely to get the nod over Gabriel and Rob Holding to partner Laurent Koscielny at the heart of the Arsenal defence some early teething problems for the German in north London.
Consistent duo Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are also certain to slot back into the team at full-back.
In other Arsenal team news, Wenger is ready to let this young star out on loan to get more first-team football.